Do you have an older dog? If so, you may have noticed that the behavioral patterns of your dog have changed over the year. Some such changes are obvious and inevitable due to the aging process (e.g. sleeping more, less tolerant of exercise, etc.).
However, many behavioral problems stem from health issues in aging dogs.
Dogs are very much "creatures of habit," and even slight variations from their normal behavior can indicate health issues.
For example, changes in movement behavior may indicate joint problems, circulatory, ear or eye issues; changes in elimination patterns often indicate kidney, blood sugar, digestive, hormonal or metabolic issues.
Here are some behavior changes that commonly occur in aging, senior dogs:
A normally gentle dog may suddenly turn aggressive as he ages due to changes in his body, such as:
If your old dog is suddenly showing signs of aggression, check first to see if he is in pain. See if you can locate the source that causes pain. Also, check to see if your dog is losing his hearing or vision. If you can't find anything out of the ordinary, take him to the vet to find out the underlying cause.
Some older dogs may show typical signs of separation anxiety (e.g. barking, chewing, eliminating in inappropriate places, etc.) when they are left alone.
There are several possible reasons:
Again, check for any physical conditions (e.g. pain, hearing/vision loss) that may have caused the anxiety to develop. A visit to the vet is necessary if you can't find anything unusual.
In the meantime, try using some natural remedies to calm your anxious old dog.
Just like people, some aging dogs tend to wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep! Instead, they may whine to get attention, or pace through the house.
Possible reasons include:
Herbs such as valerian, chamomile, and passionflower can be used to get your dog to sleep deeper. See this page for more information.
Sometimes a dog that has been properly house-trained will start soiling the house here and there when he gets older.
This may be due to a number of reasons:
Curing or managing the physical disease can solve the house-soiling problem. If you suspect that your aging dog's "accidents" are caused by a physical disease, take him to the vet for a check-up.
If arthritis or difficult movement is stopping your dog to go outside to relieve himself, consider training him to use an indoor "toilet".
Again, treating and managing the underlying physical ailment can solve this problem, so work together with your vet if your aging dog starts having "accidents" around the house.
Sometimes an aging dog that shows some of the behavioral changes mentioned above does not have any other health problems (such as arthritis or hearing loss).
The dog may just be suffering from a disorder known as canine cognitive dysfunction (doggie dementia). According to a study, around 60% of dogs 10 years and older has this disorder.
Common symptoms of CCD include:
Visit this page for more information on this topic.
As you can see, many older dogs change their behaviors due to physical problems. It is important that we take our older dog to be examined by a veterinarian if he shows some of the above behavioral changes.
There are things that you can do to help make your dog's golden years more pleasant:
By noting any behavioral changes of your aging dog, you can greatly help your vet determine whether your dog has any health issues, and if so, which body organ or system may be compromised.